Article I §4 of the Utah State Constitution (1895) states,
“The rights of conscience shall never be infringed. The State shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office of public trust or for any vote at any election; nor shall any person be incompetent as a witness or juror on account of religious belief or the absence thereof. There shall be no union of Church and State, nor shall any church dominate the State or interfere with its functions. No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction, or for the support of any ecclesiastical establishment.”
How did this become the law concerning religion in the state of Utah? How did the delegates’ decisions to the Utah constitutional convention influence protections of the rights of conscience today? How did these legal protections lead to a religiously diverse contemporary society? This course will explore these questions and more.
The State Framers’ Debates on Religion in Utah is an online module designed for high schoolers (grades 9–12) and college students. It can also be used in physical classrooms, emphasizing the civil dialogue modeled by the founding statesmen as they debated and proposed changes to the text of what ultimately became the Utah State Constitution. The course relies on historical debates in the Utah Constitutional Convention of 1895 and digitized archives from the Quill Project at the University of Oxford and the Utah State Archives and Records Service.